It's worth signing up to The McKinsey Quarterly to read a recent interview with Chip Heath, Professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford School of Business and co-author of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. The interview includes this bit of wisdom, along with lots of other great insights for employee communicators:
"Leaders will spend weeks or months coming up with the right idea but then spend only a few hours thinking about how to convey that message to everybody else. That’s a tragedy. It’s worth spending time making sure that the lightbulb that has gone on inside your head also goes on inside the heads of your employees or customers."
Heath says sticky ideas share six basic traits:
- They're simple. They should be short, but they also must have some depth. Think proverb, not sound bite.
- They're unexpected. You're looking for uncommon sense.
- They're concrete. The opposite of "building shareholder value." More like "We can put a man on the moon in this decade."
- They're credible. Make sure the audience will buy it by avoiding spin.
- They convey emotion. Don't try to convince people. Move them.
- They tell stories. Stories allow people to mentally rehearse an idea by imagining how it is experienced by someone else. Heath calls stories "a kind of mental flight simulator."
I love, love, LOVE how the interview ends, with Heath discounting the importance of conveying sticky ideas through sexy media. "If you have the money to produce a movie about your inspiring story of organizational renewal, that's great. If not, just find an inspiring story and put it in your newsletter."
That made my day. Read the whole interview and it will make yours.